Entrepreneurial journey with IYLC
My name is Anastasia Zakharova and I want to tell you about my entrepreneurial journey towards establishing my own Swiss chocolate boutique in Kazan, Russia.
It all started with the dream of taking something wonderful from my experience in Switzerland and bringing it over to Russia.
It would have to be something that Russia didn’t have but something that people would really want. My idea? Chocolate, of course!
Russia is famous for many things, but not for chocolate. People come from all over the world to enjoy home-made, simple but very delicious cuisine, buy some cute sculptures made of wood or clothing or a colorful national ornament called “khohloma”, known for its vivid flower patterns, red and gold colors over a black background. Quality chocolate is something exclusive and wanted.
As a child, I liked the milk and white chocolate. Now, I like the dark chocolate with nuts and fruit… But I am getting distracted. Because what I really want to tell you about is my entrepreneurship journey.
I am in the final stages of creating my business plan. This has involved a lot of research. I work closely with the International Young Leaders Club (the founder and the owner of which is also Les Roches graduate, Elena Kaplun). Elena, in her capacity as consultant and coach, has helped me complete all the steps properly, throughout the entire process.
There are no other Swiss chocolate companies in Kazan, so I have had to look at how other luxury brand companies, such as watches and cars, have developed their markets. The research aspect, collecting trustworthy information regarding my region Tatarstan, has been the biggest challenge.
Mostly all the info that I could found was about Moscow. But in that case I focused on primary research, was talking to people, asking their opinion about the luxury industry and their preferences and made a survey.
I spoke to the competition, of course, the companies selling Belgium and Russian chocolates, and they seem to agree that there is definitely a niche for Swiss chocolate.
Starting a project like this involves knowing the consumer market really well. I know that Russians are traditionally-oriented. They love imported products, but they love their own traditional products as well. I will work to connect culture and good quality products. Maybe we will see chocolate matroshkas on sale? Why not?
You have to have a niche. Something that no-one else is offering. My chocolate vision should be seen as something very unique. Exclusive. Luxury. Something only some people can afford. Those who cannot afford it every week, they can buy it as a special occasion. I counter the fact that it won’t attract the same clients every day, by also having contracts with corporate companies. So, when they want to give presents to clients, to employees even, they may give them these chocolates.
I would say that my plans are realistic. My plan is to start small. A 40-meter boutique that sells the finest of chocolate from a range of Swiss master chocolatiers. My vision is not small, I should add. Indeed, once established, I want to eventually open my café, do chocolate workshops with children, catering. But this is long-term.
I have meetings set up with these master chocolatiers, of course. I am meeting with two major luxury chocolate brands (their names are secret for now, of course). These brands would love to expand to Russia, and need a reliable partner. Right now, I am working out which one is my number one choice.
Another challenge is to find an investor, but I think I will manage this issue because I have found already very attractive figures based on market research and the final version will be interesting for the investors. By the end of September, I will be ready to take my business plan to the financial backers, which also include the bank.
We have difficult legal issues in Russia. It’s not like the West with international laws and norms. My father will help me negotiate these waters, find reliable lawyers etc.
And there is a really important point. If you are young and starting out, you need to have people around you who you trust, and who can help you negotiate your way around whichever economic, cultural and legal context you are working in.
Two years ago I saw the movie Chocolat with Johnny Depp and saw all the passion for chocolate. I believe that if you combine passion and work, you will be successful, whatever you do. There are no borders between work and pleasure. You work and have fun, you develop your own idea and put your energy in it. If you pour your spirit into it, you will be successful. You may have problems but you will overcome them.
Right. Back to work. I will write again with an update soon.
About the Author
Anastasia Z. has been an active IYLC member for the last 2 years and comes from Russia. She has completed her undergraduate education in Switzerland and is currently working with the United Nations in the Geneva headquarters. Anastasia has accomplished the IYLC self-awarenss modules and took coaching sessions with our team across different dimensions of leadership, career and finding your element. Entrepreneurship and Chocolate are amongst her biggest passions. The support and coaching described by Anastasia in her blog post is part of IYLC Entrepreneur.
This article was originally published on the Les Roches blog; Anastasia’s is an alumni of Les Roches – International School of Hotelmanagement.